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Uruguay-Egypt Match Report

A few takeaways.

Slow start but the steady and unmistakable build as Uruguay's superior talent upped the pressure in the second half--and the last 20 minutes in particular.

Egypt certainly caught the eye with excellent organization, rugged but heady defending, vigorous but measured running, and the tight shape. West Brom's Hegazi was terrific in the back and may yet attract wider attention from clubs with money, and Elneny looked a better water carrier in this context (though note beaten in the air for the winner).

Uruguay kind of looked like the old Uruguay for much of the game, resolute, calm and excellent in the air on defense, while not very creative on the offensive side, despite the talent infusion in midfield. A bit boring, really, though one appreciates the organization, and Old Man Tabarez not terribly concerned about the miasma. Suarez was half-himself, getting into scoring positions but then muffing shots you'd suspect he'd bury most days. The Atletico central defenders are a thing of beauty; Godin is a supreme organizer, and I'd say he's had some success with a hair growth product, as he looks eight years younger than when he first crossed my eyes eight years ago in South Africa.

What impressed me the most was the combinations that Cavani and Suarez were able to find in the last 20, when Egypt was squeezing space extra tight at the back. Cavani does not have a history of greatness in the big games, but he was the consummate target man, smashed a beautiful half volley, drew a foul and then pulverized the crossbar on the free kick, and gave much belief to the side. Gimenez's header is no fluke; it's his sixth for Uruguay, and the form told us all we needed to know about the threat.

While a heartbreaker on the one hand for Egypt, I'd also count it a massive showing. Anyone eyeing them--the Russians in particular--will rue the massive spirit and daunting cohesion that they showed. They never lacked for belief, went toe-to-toe with a notoriously physical team, weathered many storms, got a great game for what was arguably the second-choice keeper (no 45-year old!), and played like they did not need Salah to succeed. Knowing that they could have that much cohesion and hopefully get the African Player of the Year back to torment two questionable defenses must give them great hope. I'd like to see a #9 who's less static, especially if Salah comes back, but I loved the fight that the team showed.

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